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Artist Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong Brings “Current” Into Being

Working on the fabrication of "Current" by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong (photo courtesy of the artist)
Working on the fabrication of "Current" by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong (photo courtesy of the artist)
Working on the fabrication of "Current" by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong (photo courtesy of the artist)

Installing Current, Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong’s winning sculpture design, in Tarrytown at the Westchester Landing of the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge’s path, is a challenging endeavor. 

In addition to time, the sculpture’s triangular steel arches, glass fins and complex lighting design require a team of installers, electricians and engineers to ensure the interactive artwork operates as designed, all under the vigilant eye of Wong herself.

The 12 arches range in size from 4-feet 6-inches at one end to 25 feet at the other. A halo of LED lights with gel silicone diffusers frame the arches, giving them a hazy glow. Motion sensors on the sculpture will respond to movement, playing light animations as visitors move around it during the evening hours. “It responds to your presence,” Wong says of the piece.

On top of the arches, dichroic glass fins will appear pink, purple, yellow or gold, depending on the position of the viewer. Made from laminated glass with a film that changes color when seen from different angles, they shimmer with iridescence. The fins will be placed and bolted by hand once the rest of the sculpture is installed to avoid breakage.

There’s also an historical element to the piece – reclaimed pieces of the Tappan Zee Bridge will serve as part of the formwork to pour the sculpture’s foundation, as well as mullions to secure the glass fins to the arches.

As designed, visitors looking through the narrow end of Current will see the new bridge in the distance.

“It will always be reflecting light, making shadows and light drawings,” Wong says. “Throughout the year it will change – it will always be different in some way.” In the future, she may reprogram the light animations to create different patterns.

Wong’s project was one of 10 commissioned artworks chosen by a committee that included representatives from ArtsWestchester, Arts Council of Rockland and the New York State Thruway Authority. The winning entries, comprising sculptures, bicycle racks and a mural, have been, or will be, installed on or near the bridge’s shared pedestrian and bicycle path. 

Wong, who lives in downtown Manhattan, learned about ArtsWestchester from a videographer friend. After signing up for ArtsWestchester’s mailing list, she received an email about an open call for art projects for the new bridge and submitted her proposal.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Wong has now lived in New York for 14 years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Art and Italian from the University of California at Berkeley and a master’s degree in Architecture from Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She also studied sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, Italy. Wong has created other public art commissions, including for the City of Inglewood Department of Parks and Recreation, the NYC Parks Department and the Percentage for Art program in Washington, D.C.

“I started out on the art pathway at first,” Wong says. “Studying architecture wasn’t at all planned – I also applied for MFAs – but I thought it could inform my art practice.” Now, she says, she finds herself involved with both art and construction, areas of knowledge that are helping bring Current into being.

Working on the fabrication of "Current" by Cheryl Wing-Zi Wong (photo courtesy of Danny McCauley/Elemental Metalworks)
Welder working on the sculpture's fabrication (photo courtesy of Danny McCauley/Elemental Metalworks)

A version of this article first appeared in the June issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.

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